Joining me this week is Joan Waters, a young queen who's relatively new to the Chicago drag scene, but she's awesome and funny and she's John Waters' biggest stalker or something.
Chad: I'm excited to talk with you this week! If I'm not mistaken, you're quite a fan of John Waters, right Or, wait, is he your dad?
Joan: My dad actually does look like John Waters. Now I'm having a serious Oedipal or Electrical problem.
Chad: Is he half of your namesake?
Joan: Yes!My mom used to let me watch anything -- which was bad judgment on her part, because I had inherently bad taste and went straight for Pink Flamingos. I love trashy queens, and I love campy queens, and you don't get trashier or campier than John. Or Divine!
Chad: So what did you think of his involvement with this episode? What does it mean for John Waters to be on RuPaul's Drag Race?
Joan: It's a validation in part of his significance in drag history. He helped craft the original drag superstar in Divine, so it's only appropriate that he should visit to help find the Next Drag Superstar! Divine and John really moved drag in a new direction. It was always counterculture, but it was never as shocking or funny until they rubbed their filthy hands all over it.
Chad: Do you see any parallels between John Waters and Ru? Both are known for being quite transgressive in their early work, but they've both grown their respective empires in more mainstream directions.
Joan: Yes! John and Ru started as far underground as you can (six feet under or closer to the Kelly Mantle of the Earth). But both were such bright, hot commodities that it was only natural that mainstream straight culture would want a fucking piece of that action. Their points of view are unique and even their mainstream work has been badass.
Chad: Yeah, that's a fair point of view. I think they've both maintained their visibility and ensured their longevity by commercializing their creative empires like that. For better or worse, perhaps, it's a necessary evil.
Joan: John Waters exemplifies a "make it work" temperament with all of his films. He and his team would break laws and film with barely any funds, get arrested, and it was all in good fun.
Chad: So what did you think of this week's challenge? Did it capture that same spirit?
Joan: This week's challenge was exciting and frustrating for me because it was definitely a "watered" down version of his most subversive films through the lens of his more palatable and commercial films and musicals like Hairspray and Cry Baby. It was a little sweet and not as shitty as I had hoped. I just pray that the children look at his work for themselves. And honestly, the only one that was offensively bad in a John Waters way was Pearl, Violet and Fame... and they lost!
Chad: Yeah, I felt the same way. I LOVED seeing the queens adopt crazier makeup, and even the "pretty" queens like Fame and Violet embraced a really ugly, fun expressivity.
Joan: Yes! I thought Fame got the shit end of the dog.
Chad: But it felt like they were largely IMITATING a subversive queen from 30 years ago rather than being transgressive in their own right.
Joan: Totally. Lightning doesn't strike twice, and neither did Divine (unless provoked).
Chad: I would have preferred to see the queens' own take on the material -- how would they have interpreted their own script based on an iconic John Waters scene?
Joan: I think Katya is doing well in spite of the writing.
Chad: She brought a zany physicality to it that was just magnificent. Katya is everything.
Joan: She has been fighting through the generic and giving me spastic hooker burned by John Waters and morphasized into a comedy legend Glamazon. I love how the girls in Untucked this week were happy with the idea of Katya winning the whole competition. (She should.)
Chad: Yeah, like I've said before, I think she's this season's Alaska -- not necessarily the most vulnerable, not really an underdog, not the showstopper. But the one who's consistently hilarious, bizarre, and surprising.
Joan: Chad, all will be lost if you don't draw Edith Massey this week. I didn't even know she was still alive. Oh that was Ginger? Edith was as much of a John Waters staple as Divine, and it was honestly so refreshing to see Ginger nail it. That was the best casting since me in that group scene I did last week.
Chad: Ha! Ginger was great. She's a consistently solid performer, and I still think she's getting the "winner's edit" this season.
Joan: Oh, definitely. I wouldn't mind it so much if only her runway was a little better.
Chad: Yeah, she feels like the "safe" pick as the winner -- she's funny as hell, she's reliable, and she's lovable. But she's not as much "out of the box" as Katya and Trixie are with their humor, or as Violet and Pearl are with their deranged fashion.
Joan: And I think that her "ugly" runway looked suspiciously like something she could've worn almost any other week.
Chad: Yeah, I would have liked to see something crazier from her on the runway. This week was a really mixed bag for that.
Joan: I can't tell if the runway was successful because I hated it, or if I was supposed to hate it. I'm just confused.
Chad: I wanted to see more diabolically ugly shit walk down that runway.
Joan: When I think of ugly, I don't think of a church lady or a teenage schoolgirl from Japan.
Chad: Violet was going in the right direction, definitely. I liked Katya's ragged hair and ridiculous color scheme. Kennedy at least had a character that worked in that context. Pearl's choice was especially odd.
Joan: Theyre drag queens! They should hear “ugly” and run to Jiggly Caliente's closet.
Chad: I thought Fame looked pretty magnificent, especially from the neck up. That makeup That wig!
Joan: I love Fame. Her head is fine, and her fashion is fabulous.
Chad: I thought her performance was *fine* this week. Like, she's not one of those pretty queens who gets stuck in her head, unable to let loose. She gave an expressive and fun performance, if not a nuanced or varied one.
Joan: It was a tough outfit to do a lip sync in. She looked like a fashionable Humpty Dumpty.
Chad: I wanted to see her do some better spin moves, like Detox in her amazing "jellyfish" outfit from Season 5.
Joan: Yes! That's one of my all time favorites lip syncs. I think it's confusing that they didn't use a Divine song, but whatever. Someone on reddit brilliantly pointed out that they should've used “I'm So Beautiful,” which would've been a better song to contrast with the ugly fashion.
Chad: Ha! Agreed. The last two weeks have presented some really offbeat, unexpected challenges in an otherwise slightly underwhelming season. What are you hoping for next?
Joan: I would love for them to have an actual sewing challenge. An individual fashion challenge. Or something challenging like the Presidential Debate was in Season Four. Right now, I'm lacking chances for the girls to shine individually. I don't need any more acting challenges.
Chad: If you could present a truly transgressive challenge to the show to really push boundaries and mess shit up, what would you want to see?
Joan: Good question. I'd love to get them out of the studio like they did a while back. Get those queens on the street during the day or in a Walmart. Make them create something for real on a dime, or actually make them walk children in nature like Shelly Long in Troop Beverly Hills. That I'd live for.
Chad: Yeah, I love seeing them get by on only their own wit and resilience. That's what the stand-up comedy challenge is good for, or Season 5's Roast. I'd also LOVE to see them do something like reddit's Lip Sync For Your Life competition. Like, here's a video camera, now make something crazy tonight in your hotel room.
Joan: They should do that when I get on for Season 13.
Chad: What, you think just because you WON reddit's LSFYL challenge last year, you're something special??
Joan: Don't call me special when you know I'm just handicapped, Chad.
Chad: What do you have going on that you'd like to plug, Joan?
Joan: As far as plugs, I'm working on my website now... which will be hosted at fat-twink.com. OUT OF SYNC, my original sitcom about drag queens starring Lucy Stoole and Trannika Rex, has wrapped principal photography and will premiere in Chicago this summer. I'm hosting the 3rd season of Reddit's Lip Sync for Your Life competition at reddit.com/r/LSFYL. And you can find me every other Wednesday performing and checking my Grindr onstage at Fabitat in the basement bar of Double Door.
Check out all the fabulous posters, prints, and postcards available at my Etsy store!